Student Agency & Book Reviews in 6th grade ELA

Student Agency & Book Reviews in 6th grade ELA

I’d like to take a little bit of time to highlight how Mrs. Cole has encouraged a few of her students who were craving a challenge to go beyond their book reports and explore a creative way to express what they had learned through reading their books. Mrs. Cole and I had discussed ways to add student agency to these students’ project and allow them to design their own learning experience.

During this a previous cycle of student book reviews, Mrs. Cole had a few students in which she felt did their book review but didn’t get as much out of it as she wished, and it seemed to her that they needed some sort of creative challenge to discover a new way to express themselves and their books. This is where she contacted me. She asked me to sit down with two of her students to explore different options for them to demonstrate their knowledge of what they had read to the rest of their peers.

The first student read the story “Boy in the Striped Pajamas.” While he fully understood the text he read and could explain the story in its entirety, he began asking questions about WWII and the Holocaust. After a lengthy discussion that lasted an entire period, I asked him to think about what we had discussed and how he could portray what he had learned that day, what he had learned from his book, and the questions he still had to his classmates. The following day we met again. Still interested in what we had discussed the previous day, I showed him a trailer of the Hollywood movie. I asked him, what would most want your classmates to get out of your book report? What would make them understand what you have read, and what would allow them to be placed in the setting of the book?

He expressed his desire to give his classmates a feel for what Auschwitz was like. We then did a virtual tour within Google Earth to give him an idea of what it would have been like to be in the prison camp. He then decided he would like to redevelop Auschwitz in Minecraft and give his classmates a virtual tour. I was very proud of the way he put together his presentation. He was able to walk his classmates through the virtual concentration camp that he had created in a language that they would understand. He then gave them an authentic look at what the camp looked like through a virtual Google Earth tour as well as compiled images that he had gathered.

Lastly, he explained his book and how it related to the camp. It was a great reflection assignment for him, and it really got him thinking beyond his book report. He was asking more questions when he left Mrs. Cole’s class than when he arrived. Not only did he create a project that captured the attention of the entire 6th-grade class, but his project also captured the attention of the author of the book. The author reached out to the student personally and congratulated him on a job well done.

Thank you, Mrs. Cole, for giving him the opportunity to create for his classmates.

WeVideo & Book Trailer

Another student decided that he would like to expand on his book by creating a Book Trailer. This student’s book was “Building Bombs for Hitler.” Again, we had a lengthy discussion on WWII and the Holocaust which related back to the student’s book. This student also watched the same movie trailer for “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” and he decided that he would like to create his own trailer for his book.

The student created a three-minute voiceover, in which he described the rising action of his story, hinted at a possible climax, and left his audience interested in his book and wanting more. The project allowed for the student to synthesize what he had read, as well as develop a creative way to interest his classmates in the topic. This student was pushed beyond the typical book report to generate a thorough understanding of his book’s content through the use of multimedia. Again, this student got a shout out from the author of the book when his project was shared on Twitter. Incredible!

Again, thank you, Mrs. Cole, for allowing us to work together.